13 North Shore Area Outdoor Activities for the Whole Family! | Chicago North Shore Moms

When the weather warms up, there’s no denying that there is so much to do outside on Chicago’s North Shore! We’ve rounded up 13 North Shore outdoor activities that you can do with the whole family, or solo, too, for that much needed alone time. Thank you to Chicago North Shore Moms calendar sponsor, Lori Nieman, @properties Winnetka for great ideas like these!


1) Bike along a North Shore trail:

The North Shore has great bike paths that keep bikers away from busy streets. And you can easily bike to hot restaurants using these trails. Check out https://www.traillink.com/trail/north-shore-bike-path/ and start exploring. Stop at the many small business bike shops to purchase new gear or get that much needed tune up.


2) Hike along a designated trail inside a forest preserve. 

The North Shore is home to two counties, Lake County and Cook County. Each county has its own forest preserves department. For those of you who are new to the North Shore, Cook county are towns south of Lake Cook Rd. and Lake county are towns north of Lake Cook Rd. You can visit https://fpdcc.com/places/trails/ for a list of Cook County trails and https://www.lcfpd.org/places-to-go/maps/ for a list of Lake County trails.


3) Visit Beautiful Fort Sheridan

Did you know that the North Shore is home to a retired military base? “If you’ve ever wanted to travel back in time, then we encourage you to visit this preserve. The site of the historic U.S. Army post (1887–1993) holds national significance for its landscape and architecture design, and for the preparation and training of American soldiers for military service.” While there, you can bike, hike, visit the lake and picnic. Plus the surrounding homes along the shore are a site! Visit https://www.lcfpd.org/fort-sheridan/ for location and parking information. Please note that the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve in Highland Park is temporarily closed for summer 2022



4) Kayak or Canoe the Skokie Lagoons

On Tower Rd. just off of Route 41/94 you’ll see ample parking and a boat rental hut. There families can rent kayaks, canoes, life jackets and head out on the water for a different activity and a great arm workout! The Lagoons are comprised of 894-acres and surrounded by paved biking trails. Grab a picnic bench and take a break with delicious food you purchased from one of the many specialty grocers around town. Head to https://fpdcc.com/places/locations/skokie-lagoons/ for more information on rates, hours, days and parking.


5) Walk the gardens grab lunch at CBG

What a gem we have and it’s not taken for granted! The Chicago Botanic Garden is home to 28 gardens and four natural areas. Walk the gardens, take the tram, and don’t forget the garden bingo cards for the kids. They just love those and really keep them engaged. Not to be missed is the model train exhibit and the butterfly sanctuary in the summertime. Visit https://www.chicagobotanic.org/ for information on rates and parking. 


6) Visit your local pool!

Whether you’re new to town or just would like to venture outside of your town pool, CNSMoms has you covered with this awesome list (if we do say so ourselves) of public pools and splash pads from Skokie to Lake Bluff and all of the North Shore towns in between.



7) North Shore beaches!

There’s no shortage of beautiful beaches on the North Shore.  From North to South, check out where to catch the rays & waves. Although it’s true that some beaches can be tricky to access if you’re not a resident of that town, there’s still ways to make a day out of it! Visit Chicago North Shore Mom’s post here for a complete list!


8) Go paddle boarding and sailboarding!

Evanston, Winnetka and Highland Park are three North Shore towns where you can rent paddle boards and sailboarding. Each place requires membership, has a minimum age and you must pass a swim test prior to taking advantage of this amazing resource! These sites also have a learn to paddle board and sailboard program. Learn more:

Highland Park: North Shore Yacht Club

Winnetka: Lloyd Beach and Boat Launch

Evanston: Dempster Street Beach


9) Ravinia Festival

If you’ve never gone to show here, there’s no better time like the present. Most show-goers sit in general admission, on the grass, and bring loads of picnic accessories and yummy food. It’s a true production but well worth it and the kids can run around and visit the music garden located in the northwest area of the grounds. Visit https://www.ravinia.org/ for show dates and parking information. Parking can get tough, and overflow is located at Chicago Botanic Garden and the downtown Highland Park train station with bus service to the grounds.



10) Go fishing from land

You love to go fishing but don’t want to get in a boat. Here are few spots to check out (permits required):

Foley’s Pond in Highland Park

Lagoon No. 3, Skokie Lagoons

Lake Carina Fishing, Gurnee, IL



11) Visit an outdoor adventure park!

Your family seeks thrills and has skilz! So take them to one of two close outdoor adventure parks with obstacle courses and ziplining:

Go Ape, Western Springs, IL

Boundless Adventures, Kenosha, WI




12) Bristol Renaissance Faire

The kids absolutely love this activity but it’s pretty crowded every day, every hour. I think it would be fun to with a group of adults! Here, you can see shows, dress up and be goofy, enjoy ax throwing, knife throwing, try on real knight armour, sample the delicious cuisine, enjoy face painting, games, mud wrestling and really so much more. We had a blast! https://renfair.com/bristol/



13) Not so close but so cool – Day trip to Starved Rock

Visit 13 miles of trails and see unique rock and cave-like formations. You can boat and fish here, too! Visit https://www.starvedrocklodge.com/starved-rock-state-park/ for hours, parking and tour information. This is not a great activity to do with children still relying on strollers as it’s nearly impossible to hike the trails with a stroller. Pro tip: Make time for an EARLY dinner at Ron’s Cajun Connection.

About our Chicago North Shore Moms Calendar sponsor

Lori Nieman with @properties Winnetka has been a resident of Chicago and the North Shore for the last 30 years, having lived in various neighborhoods of the City, as well as in Winnetka and Wilmette. With over 20 years of experience in both commercial and residential real estate, she brings a unique, buttoned-up and current approach to the ever-changing real estate sales process.

Lori can help find that dream listing here on the North Shore AND in Naples, FL, even before it hits the market with advanced viewings. She’s an invaluable resource for contractors and neighborhood happenings, and a huge supporter of the small businesses we shout out to you each week.

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